If you’d like something more uplifting after watching that, take a look at Scanlon’s trip to Eurovision:
iOS 11 is going to be available today. If you’ve been reading Nuclear Monster for a while you already know that some apps won’t be compatible with iOS 11 as Apple drops the 32bit software layer. Developers have been expecting this change for a long time, and it’s unfortunate that some haven’t been able to update their apps, but here is how you check to see if any of the apps you use haven’t been updated for iOS 11 yet.
Matt Bitner’s A Robot Named Fight feels like it might be the answer to a question: What if a third-party developer had made a Super Metroid style of game for Sega’s Genesis console?
Here’s the concept: You’re a robot, you fight some meat-monsters until your remains are tossed on a heap of other robots that have failed in their task. Each time the robot named Fight dies another robot you control shoots up a different procedurally generated series of rooms. Each bot is looking for a violent solution to the meat-monster problem, or at least some powerups for now and some upgrades that might be available for the next ‘bot. Ultimately, you must destroy the Megabeast. The developer calls it a “…pulsating moon-sized orb of flesh, eyes, mouths and reproductive organs…”
Most games in this metroidvania genre of side-scrollers try to significantly depart from their source material. In this case ARNF takes the unusual position of straight-up copying Samus’ spinning jump and a few other animations. They might not be perfect reproductions, but they are so close.
Now that isn’t bad, just a surprise as if you went into a Burger King for the first time and found them selling the exact same sandwich as you would find in a McDonald’s. Except in this game the fries and tray and your drink and cup and straw would be made of meat.
A Robot Named Fight has another clear ancestor in Rogue. That’s where it gets areas generated programmatically, or laid out by an algorithm, instead of designed and assembled by hand in a linear order. You might see the same kind of room in one run and another, but the layout of the rooms should almost never be the same as what you saw in your last attempt.
This is also a pretty difficult game. There is what the developer calls true permadeath, once you run out of health your run is done. No coffins or alien tubes to resurrect in. The game lets you save at any time, but that’s not a save you can go back to if, when, things go to shit. Although I did find a robo-tube save-room once, using it brought me back to life with a black screen that ultimately appeared to be a bug. After restarting the game I was back to a normal view. More typically, when Fight dies it’s back to the start for an almost entirely clean slate.
A Robot Named Fight is at least nice enough to follow the standard of giving you what you need most. If you’re low on health, you’ll get health when you splat some more monsters. Low on energy? Here you go.
The bosses I’ve faced so far aren’t super challenging, they generally feel like you can work out a simple strategy as long as you’ve had enough upgrades on the path to them.
Other little things contribute to the difficulty. Often, games can be generous with the amount of invincibility you get when landing in spikes or lava or whatever to get out of them, not in ARNF. If you land in spikes with some minor obstacle blocking your exit it could be game over.
Some of the most challenging parts of the game come when you least expect them. Once, when I had been through a room a few times before and was used to blasting everything before it could harm Fight, I wasn’t paying quite enough attention and got tangled by a glitch monster that screws with your controls. That wouldn’t be so bad if they hadn’t gotten me while I was over a pit of spikes where I struggled for a few moments watching my health dwindle before regaining control.
Like many modern metroidvania games, when you press the “select” button to bring up the map, or view the minimap in the top right of the screen, you’ll see an indicator for rooms with hidden powerups. But in ARNF I keep coming across misleading markers for hidden items where the marker is for one room but the adjoining area is actually where the hidden powerup is. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that you’re attacking the wrong zone, but it isn’t fun to waste a few minutes looking for something that isn’t there. It’s also a bit difficult to even see that the hidden powerup marker on the minimap when you’re in the room because the “you are here” blinking marker overlaps it. Then you realize while you’re staring at the map that bringing it up doesn’t pause the game and you might lose some health or die. Not fun.
Maybe the most frustrating part of A Robot Named Fight is that in some cases you’ll end up taking a path down that is a steep enough drop that you can’t return to the previous area. In one egregious case I went through a door on the floor intro a room that connected to one other but had no way to get back up or progress in any way because I hadn’t found a double-jump powerup on that run. 20 minutes of exploring down the drain because the procedurally laid out rooms had been generated poorly and then five minutes more of trying to find some way to progress by letting my robot bounce off of the two monsters that spawned in the room.
The developer is still patching the game, and I see patch notes for correcting similar issues so I would expect all of those situations to eventually be resolved, but in that case maybe this game should be in Steam’s Early Access program. I reported the bug and sent my save file to the developer before starting a fresh game in a different save slot.
The next run I had was my longest robo-life with the game at that point, 35 minutes or so where I explored a lot of the meatly ruins It’s here that I finally had the default blaster leveled up with so many rate-of-fire powerups and other bonuses like flame damage to finally feel like I could breeze through areas without worrying too much about the monsters in them.
The final differentiating factor for this metroidvania is that it isn’t built for playing on a review schedule. A Robot Named Fight feels like a game where it is entirely run-based and would be best played at a leisurely pace, picking it up once or twice a day for a few weeks to experience a new layout of the wrecked planet each time. Playing repeated runs for long sessions felt defeating. One run might be great, but my next would sometimes throw me up against a boss immediately without enough powerups to win.
I like a lot of things about A Robot Named Fight, it is extremely familiar with callbacks to earlier games but also changes things up with the randomized level layout and meat-tacular theme, but it feels like it isn’t ready yet.
I love the feeling of progress in metroidvania games by unlocking more weapons and breezing through areas that were previously difficult, but ARNF isn’t always as rewarding with its progression as it should be.
I love randomized level layouts in some recent metroidvania games like Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells, but it’s clear with A Robot Named Fight that no human designed them when I ended up looking at layouts of rooms too often that made no sense. Secret paths that lead nowhere, broken rooms without an escape. these all made me feel like this game should be in beta, not a finished product. It is receiving patches every few days right now to fix these issues, and I can understand why someone might not want their game lumped into the early access program, but sometimes when you hit a bug ARNF feels like it’ll be done in 3 months, not today.
Still, there’s something charming about the meaty challenge. If you’re looking for something that you can’t turn your brain off and breeze through, this could be that game for you. For me, I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach the Megabeast but I will keep trying a run or two every few nights.
After the recent Apple event ended I wanted to follow-up on a few points about the new iPhones as well as the cellular stuff for the Watch.
First of all, there’s the size comparison between the X and the 8 Plus.
It’s clear after watching this Apple developer video about making apps for the X that the X’s screen really isn’t as wide as the 8 Plus. This makes the X more of a taller 4.7-inch non-Plussed iPhone. You can see the width in this screenshot of that video below and the height in the one above:
This means that the X won’t get the same layout for display as apps on the Plus phones. These measurements are in points, abbreviated as pt, because they’re a more reliable indicator when developing for high DPI (Retina) screens and devices like the iPhone. The baked-in rounded corners of the display, the area at the bottom of the screen for the on-screen home-swipe indicator, and the status bar accommodations, are all going to trim the total pixels of the display available to apps.
Marques “MKBHD” Brownlee has a great hands-on video demonstrating the X in motion. I strongly recommend watching it to anyone considering that device over the 8 or 8 Plus:
The notch for the front-facing camera and other sensors, and the “ears” on the right and left side of the iPhone X, are going to take some getting used to. I suspect that Apple can’t wait to get rid of it as soon as possible. In the video you can see MKBHD watching a movie trailer or clip and it’s shocking to see the X displaying in “full” mode with the movie partially occluded by the notch.
The naming of these devices is also bonkers this year. By calling one device the X, and pronouncing that as 10, this is going to be confusing as hell for people who want to compare it to the 8. They should have called one of these phones something else in order to distinguish the X line of devices as high-end if they’re set on continuing this practice into the future.
I wonder what this means for the future of the iPhone. Is Apple going to have three phones announced in September 2018? Maybe they’ll update the SE in the first half of the year as well. I would expect them to bring this edge-to-edge screen to all of their handheld devices eventually, but that might take a while. I’ll look forward to an iPhone Plus device with that screen, or one with even less bezel, hopefully next year.
The supposition I’ve heard from other writers about the higher cost of the iPhone X is that it gives Apple the ability to make a smaller batch of devices with different parts that they might not be able to source at the scale they need for a typical iPhone launch. If that’s true, well, I don’t give a shit about Apple’s supply issues, neither will anyone else so it’s good that Apple didn’t make a big deal out of that during the event and simply presented the X as a futuristic device available today.
The one distinguishing physical feature of the iPhone 8 versus the 7 is the glass back. I haven’t seen the back of my iPhone since the last time I changed the case. I don’t think most people use their phones without a case unless they don’t mind replacing them often.
With the Series 3 Watch there’s that cellular plan to think about. If you get a Series 3 Watch with LTE you don’t have to activate a plan at all. It’s optional. If you do, It turns out that it’ll be ten bucks a month to bring it online and tie it to your iPhone’s cellular plan according to iMore who also have more details rounded up. Although they’re missing Sprint’s information that attaching the Watch to their network will cost the same $10. The Watch also won’t roam onto other networks even if your iPhone can.
The more expensive Series 3 with cellular also has twice as much internal storage, iMore guesses that this is due to the Apple Music support. It’s also gonna have worse battery life if you want to use it to replace your iPhone and remain on LTE all day. And since you have to have an iPhone on your carrier’s plan to use the Watch on a cellular network it can’t be a real replacement for an iPhone today.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! (that is the actual name of the game) was delayed but is now available for your restauranteering contentment. Or extreme frustration, you know, whichever emotion you feel when you have pressure on you to perform a series of cooking tasks. I love this kind of game, but as I wrote in my last post about it, I fear that my reflexes are too terrible to play this kind of game anymore.
The new version promises higher resolution graphics, local split-screen drop-in/drop-out co-op throughout the entirely new 60+ hour campaign. CSD! 2!! is also supposed to be more flexible in its difficulty, so maybe I could throw myself at it again.
If you would like to test your mettle, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! is out on Windows, macOS, and Linux via Steam (as well as through the Humble store) for $13. A PlayStation 4 version is also in development.
Nintendo put out a press release announcing that they would both manufacture more NES Classic Editions this coming summer, 2018, as well as making more Super NES Classic Editions available at launch on September 29th than they had shipped of the NES CE all last year.
It’s good that Nintendo are finally going to potentially thwart some people who are taking advantage of shortages, but this commitment should have happened a long time ago.
Apple held their first iPhone event at their new Steve Jobs Theater on their UFO campus in California today. The event opened with Tim Cook memorializing Jobs. Then he discussed disaster relief projects and encouraged donations. Finally Cook talked about Apple’s new campus. No mentions of offices for the engineers, who have complained that the new campus is almost entirely an open space.
Angela Ahrendts talked about their stores before Cook came back out to start announcing devices and software.
Here’s what they announced.
Tim Cook talked about their success then played a video featuring letters from users about how the watch has helped them. Here’s that video:
Jeff Williams reiterated WatchOS 4 updates with better coaching, a redesigned workout app, features for swimmers, and integration with gym equipment. The new OS also gets a new heart rate app and a heart rate complication for the watch faces. The watch will now alert you to an unusually high heart rate when it thinks you’re not active. It’ll also monitor for arrhythmias in a study with Stanford Medicine and the FDA later this year.
WatchOS 4 will be out on September 19th.
Apple Watch Series 3
Here’s their ad for the new Series 3 watch:
It’s a cellular device that takes calls with your regular iPhone’s phone number. Of course it’ll also have data capabilities and will stream music from Apple Music.
There’s a new faster processor and Siri finally speaks on the watch if you want to hear them instead of reading a response. The device also has a barometric altimeter built-in.
The Series 3 Apple Watch retains the form factor of the previous watches. Cellular models of the Series 3 have a red dot on the crown so that you can feel special.
Williams made a very awful joke during this presentation about a potential device with all of this functionality looking like a house arrest bracelet. Not funny.
Obviously Apple is very focused on this being an activity monitoring device. I’m not very active but I still appreciate mine as a device for triaging notifications.
Series 2 watches are getting dropped. The Series 1 will remain in the lineup at $250. The base series 3 watch will be $330 and the Series 3 with cellular capabilities will be $400.
No word on the cost for the cellular plan to go with it, but Williams said they have a special deal worked out with some carriers.
The new Series 3 watches will be available to pre-order on September 15th, they’ll be generally available on September 22nd.
I don’t see much reason to upgrade from my Series 0, but I’m glad they’re continuing to work on improvements.
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV is one of the most expensive devices you can buy to put under your TV, and it has been a long time since Apple made any changes to the hardware. Eddy Cue’s pitch for this upgrade talked about how the new device also includes support for HDR standards. It also has an A10X Fusion chip, Eddy reminds us that it’s same one as in the iPad Pro. He boasted that it’s twice as fast at general computing tasks — and four times as fast on the GPU side — as the current 1080p 4th generation Apple TV.
Apple’s Aerial screensaver that displays high-resolution footage of interesting places to look at is getting updated with 4K footage.
4K movies will cost the same from Apple’s iTunes store as they currently charge for HD films. Any movies people currently own in HD that have 4K versions will be upgraded to 4K HDR for free.
Cue also said that Netflix and Amazon are on-board for the 4K update. Cue didn’t mention that the Amazon Prime Video app still isn’t available on the Apple TV even though Apple said they had a deal worked out with Amazon earlier this year.
Live news and sports are coming to the TV app on the Apple TV and iOS devices.
That Game Company’s Jenova Chen demoed a new game called Sky for the Apple TV. It’s a fun multiplayer game that has a similar style as their previous games like Journey. It’s temporarily exclusive to the Apple TV and iOS devices and will be out this winter. I didn’t hear anyone mention if the game runs in 4K.
Here’s a trailer for it:
The Apple TV lineup will now be:
It’ll be up for pre-orders on the 15th and have general availability on the 22nd.
Unfortunately there were no updates to the Apple TV Siri Remote announced, which is a shame because it’s not great for gaming and has some other design issues. Especially regarding picking up the remote and accidentally pressing the wrong button because it’s not easy to tell which orientation you’re holding it in without looking at it.
iPhone 8, 8 Plus
The rumors and leaks were accurate , there were three new iPhones announced today instead of two. An iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.
Here’s the iPhone 8 ad:
Phil Schiller did his bit to sell the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. As rumored it has a glass back as well the front. It’ll be in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. They assure that the glass is reinforced with steel and the “most durable ever” glass.
The display has been updated. It now has the True Tone technology from the iPad Pro that adjusts the display’s color temperature to look correct in different lighting conditions. The iPad Pro still doesn’t have the iPhone’s 3D Touch feature and that makes writing on it a little bit more frustrating when I switch back and forth between my iPhone and iPad.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus speakers are louder and more accurate.
There’s a new A11 Bionic chip with six cores inside the iPhone 8. It’s supposedly 25% faster than the A10. Two of the six A11 cores are tuned for performance, and four of the cores are set up for tasks that can run efficiently and don’t require as much performance so that the device can save you some battery life. Those four low-power cores are supposedly 70% faster than the ones in the A10 chip.
The GPU on the 8 is the first one Apple has developed, it’s supposed to be 30% faster than last year’s A10 while taking half the power.
There’s a new image processing engine in the A11 that Schiller says will deliver faster autofocus in low-light conditions among other improvements that should make photos taken with the 8 look sharper and have less noise.
The cameras still shoot 12 megapixels, but Apple says that the sensor is larger and lets in more light. The Plus still has the exclusive on the dual camera setup versus the regular iPhone 8.
Apple’s photos captured with the 8 and 8 Plus’ cameras look fantastic, but they are just demonstrating the difference between an experienced photographer shooting for demonstration purposes and someone taking snapshots. Of course these camera improvements will help with either type of scenario, but they’re not going to turn Frank G. iPhoneOwner into a pro photographer unless they’re interested enough to edit their photos and think about what they’re doing before taking the photo.
Schiller says that there will be a new feature called Portrait Lighting in beta for the iPhone 8 Plus. He promises that this feature will be more than a filter, it’ll present you with different lighting choices for your subject in Portrait Mode within Apple’s Camera app. You’ll be able to edit those photos and choose different lighting scenarios after the fact.
Phil Schiller also promised that these phones have better video quality. You’ll be able to record 4K videos at 60 frames-per-second and if you like slo-mo you’ll be able to record 1080p video at 240 FPS.
Schiller says that the cameras and the A11 are also configured for augmented reality. The demos I have seen for AR on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are impressive, it could be useful to have a focus on AR in the hardware as well. Schiller played pre-recorded AR demos of a Warhammer game, an MLB overlay on a live game at a stadium, and an astronomy app called Sky Guide overlaying star charts directly on the sky as viewed through an iPhone.
Directive Games’ Atli Mar demoed their AR game, The Machines. It looked a little bit like an RTS but overlaid on a table. Mar said that there was a strategic advantage to being able to move the game’s camera around by moving the physical phone, but I’m not sure if that lines up with reality. It looked almost as awkward as the AR demo from WWDC but it is very difficult to play a game for an audience and line up your view to present something cinematic, especially in front of a live audience.
The iPhone 8 also has “wireless charging” which is just contact charging, it isn’t truly wireless. It’ll use the Qi charging standard that is already widely supported. It’s good that Apple didn’t make another standard, but they aren’t including a contact charging device in the box.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be up for pre-order on September 15th and available in-stores on September 22nd. Here are the prices for different configurations:
iPhone 8 Plus
iOS 11 will be out on September 19th.
Apple’s surprise of the iPhone X was spoiled by leaks and rumors, I was pretty disgusted with some journalists who took umbrage with the person who leaked the information. It’s only in Apple’s promotional interests to keep these things a secret and they aren’t going to affect our national security.
Here’s the iPhone X ad:
Phil Schiller called it “the iPhone 10,” skipping 9, I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not at first, but then they continued it and I guess this is just what it is now.
The X’s OLED display is 5.8 inches diagonally and continues the journey to a rounded rectangular slab that is all display without any border. It’s almost there, there’s just a notch at the top of the phone for the front-facing camera, earpiece, and other sensors. Apple calls this new display a “Super Retina Display” at 2436×1125 pixels and It’s 458 pixels-per-inch. So you’re getting a display that’s larger than the Plus and has more resolution in a smaller package. It’s also got an HDR standard for films and Apple’s True Tone tech.
Last year we lost the headphone TRSS jack and the home button was replaced with a simulation that I’ve grown accustomed to. This year the home button is just gone. You can wake the phone up by tapping on the display when it is in sleep mode.
iOS has other changes to accommodate the lack of a home button, of course. To get to the home screen from a “locked” iPhone X you now just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. It’s the same gesture when you’re in an app. Pausing mid-swipe, instead of raising your hand off the screen to complete the gesture, will bring up the multitasking switcher to choose from your recent apps.
I’m curious how that will work out with games. This overloading of gestures is a lot for users to take in.
The iPhone X’s sleep/wake switch is larger and can also be used to activate Siri.
Without a home button there isn’t room for a sensor to read your fingerprint for TouchID, so the iPhone X will have a face recognition system that Apple calls FaceID. Phil Schiller assures us that new sensors at the top of the phone in the notch will securely detect your face, even in the dark, to authorize your iPhone to be unlocked or in other places where you use TouchID. Including with Apple Pay.
Phil Schiller’s pitch for FaceID included a terrifying image of a wall of fake faces that Apple’s engineers used to test the face unlocking feature.
Apple are making an API available to developers for accessing the kinect-style data from the sensors on the front of the iPhone. They’re using the sensors internally to make 12 animated emojis that respond to your face and can be recorded along with audio messages to send over iMessage. Snapchat was demonstrated with it for face masking as well. They had a pretty impressive Ultimate Warrior style mask.
Craig Federighi demonstrated the iPhone X and showed that you can access the new iOS 11 Control Center by swiping down from the upper right corner where the connection status indicators are.
Phil Schiller boasted about the iPhone X cameras, they’re even better than the ones in the iPhone 8 Plus with optical image stabilization on both cameras. The front-facing camera is supposed to be better for selfies as well.
The iPhone X is supposed to get 2 more hours of battery life over the base iPhone 7, and have the same Qi charging as the 8.
The iPhone X will be up for pre-order on October 27th and shipping on November 3rd. Here are the prices for different configurations:
AirPower & Updated AirPods
Apple also has a new oval Qi charging mat coming out next year that will charge the iPhone 8 and X, as well as their Apple Watch and a new case for the AirPods that Phil Schiller said was “optional.” I’m not sure yet if “optional” means a more expensive set of AirPods or a separate purchase after the fact or both. I’d hope I could upgrade my current AirPods with a one-time purchase.
I’m kind of disappointed with the pitch for the iPhone 8 versus the iPhone X. I don’t think I would personally want the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus when there’s an iPhone X available. Although I’m sure the iPhone X will not be available in as large a quantity as the 8. I also am not looking forward to an upgrade to the AirPods already. They don’t seem like something that should change as often, but I guess it might end up being similar to the Watch where there are updates but they seem less necessary than the phone.
I’m very disappointed that Apple is calling contact charging “wireless” when there are wires involved and you can’t just hold your iPhone five feet from the AirPower dingus to charge it.
I’m not going to embed the video, here’s a link to it if you must see it, but Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg once again confirmed his status as a belligerent racist by calling someone the N-word. This guy has about 57 million subscribers on YouTube, he does this again and again, it should not be a surprise to anyone.
I believe everyone should get a chance to apologize for almost anything and legitimately change as a person, but when you’ve had multiple opportunities and the best you can muster is the half-hearted “This isn’t my fault, it’s the fault of anyone offended, the people who reported it, and by the way fuck you” that he gave last time, well it’s time to give up on that person.
It’s a shame that companies like Google continue to give Felix Kjellberg a platform, I feel bad for children who are still exposed to his casual racism when their parents don’t know what he stands for.
Neil Irwin’s article headlined “To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now” talks about the differences in opportunities for two different janitors 35 years apart. You should read it.